If you are one of those people who constantly has negative thoughts or feelings running around inside you, or you find yourself regularly repeating bad habits or destructive patterns, most likely you have a hidden self-limiting belief lurking in your mind, holding you back from reaching your full potential, preventing you from being the BEST YOU CAN BE!
What are Self-Limiting Beliefs?
Self-limiting beliefs are opinions we have of ourselves that prevent us from doing certain things based on our perceptions of our own behaviours, abilities and lifestyles. When we talk of self-limiting beliefs, we are often not necessarily talking about something real or tangible. We are talking about a train of thought that could lead us to act in ways that are not helpful to us. Our belief system acts as a filter through which we see the world, and influences our take on life. This series of posts will help people to understand the power of the belief system, how it can influence our lives and what we can do to change it for the better! Our beliefs about ourselves, those around us and the world at large effect who we are and how we behave. Beliefs are merely thoughts that with a little encouragement and repetition from our over-active minds transform into facts over time. Once we have formed a self-limiting belief, we continue to pursue evidence to prove that our belief is real. These beliefs are backed up by our inner dialogue, providing further evidence to back up our negative or ‘unhelpful’ thoughts. How many times have you caught yourself saying:
- I knew I’d be no good at this!
- This always happens to me – I’m useless!
- I never win at anything!
- I’ll never get a great job!
- I’ll never be as wealthy as them!
- I could never be a sales person!
- I’m terrible at public speaking!
Sound familiar? All of these phrases mask a self-limiting belief and if we say them to ourselves often enough, they tend to become reality. At best, they can prevent us from meeting our potential; at worst they can lead to significant impacts in our ability to function in certain aspects of our lives or relationships.
What Causes Self-Limiting Beliefs?
We are NOT born with self-limiting beliefs – Fact. Also a fact is that we are born with only two innate fears; firstly a fear of loud noises and secondly a fear of falling for very obvious evolutionary reasons. From the day we are born, however, our environment influences us – our parents, our broader family, our teachers, our friends, our society, our colleagues, the news, television, music and so on. Don’t believe me? Below are some well used phrases commonly used in our formative years. As you read through these, how do the phrases make you feel? Do they impact or resonate with you in any way? Do any of them lead to feelings you don’t like or stir deep-rooted or forgotten memories?
|From Parents||From Teachers / Adults||From School Friends / Siblings|
|Children should be seen and not heard||You will never amount to anything if ….||Don’t be a baby|
|Respect your elders||It’s really tough to become a vet, have you thought about …. instead?||You’re stupid / fat / ugly|
|You are just like your brother||You can’t have your cake and eat it too||You’re rubbish at …..!|
|Do as I say, not as I do||We’ve always done it that way||I’m much better at …..than you!|
|If you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything||Big boys don’t cry||You’re the worst in the team!|
|You’re too young to understand||Don’t be so stupid.||Nobody likes you|
|Just wait until your dad comes home||Why can’t you be smart like …||Why would anyone want to play / go out / marry you?|
|Boys will be boys||Don’t you know anything?||You’re not cool like us|
|Why can’t you be more like your sister?||Ask a silly question and you get a silly answer||If you don’t do it, I’ll……|
|Whilst you’re living under my roof, you’ll abide by my rules!||For a smart person you have no common sense.||You could never be a …., you’re not clever enough|
|What happened, you used to be so good at …..||You should know better||I’ll always have more ….than you|
|I thought you liked ….||I am always right||She’s well out of your league!|
All of these relationships in our early years play a big part in who we become and how we interpret the world. If you are raised or brought up in a culture of limited belief, this will certainly influence the lens through which you see the world. This is how and when an individual begins to develop their self-image. As you mature into adulthood, you don’t see a world of unlimited possibilities, rather a world of limitation. As a child in any environment, whether it’s home, school, or socially, if you’re told often enough that you can’t do something, eventually you will learn to believe it. The mind will soak up what it sees, hears or is told to believe over time, even if negative in nature. Once we have limitation embedded in our brains, we learn not to see potential or possibility in certain aspects of our lives. We shut them out, unconsciously in many cases. In other words we discount them without considering them at all.
How to Identify Your Self-Limiting Beliefs?
It’s not as difficult as you might think to discover your self-limiting belief.
1. Listen to your negative thoughts
We all have inner dialogues. We talk to ourselves all the time. Start paying attention to what you’re saying and when you catch yourself having unhelpful, hindering or negative thoughts about yourself or what you think you can or can’t achieve. If you can, make a note of them in the moment so you can start to see if there are any patterns. You may start to see a pattern of self-limiting beliefs.
2. Ask yourself some questions
Look at the following partial sentences and complete them honestly. Give as many answers to each one as you can. Spot any themes any in your answers. These may give you some clues as to the root cause of your self-limiting belief.
- I am…
- I am not…
- I am good with…
- I am not good with…
- I will never be able to…
- I am held back by…
- I always…
- I never…
3. Monitor Your Emotional Responses
Another method of self-monitoring is catching yourself over-reacting badly to a given situation. What did you react to? What was said? What specifically upset you and why? Has anything similar happened in the past and how did you feel on those occasions?
4. Ask someone you trust
Once you’ve spent some time on the first three (it could take a few weeks!), talk over some of the outcomes with someone who knows you well, whom you trust and that will give you honest feedback.
You might not feel like talking this through at this stage, and that’s ok. You may also have uncovered something in your past that you need to think about and work through before you talk to someone about it, but talking through your findings will help you when you feel you’re ready to.
This concludes Part 1. In Part 2, I’ll be looking at some ways in which you can start to tackle your self-limiting beliefs head on.